External Affairs

India Votes Against Israel on Key Settlements Resolution, but Abstains Again on War Crimes

While Israel may be heartened by India’s abstention on the Gaza resolution this year too, it will not be overjoyed as New Delhi voted in favour of a new resolution that sets up a database of Israeli and international firms working in the illegal Israeli settlements.

File picture of Palestinian boy looking at an Israeli soldier along the wall Wikipedia commons

File picture of Palestinian boy looking at an Israeli soldier along the wall Wikipedia commons

New Delhi: For the second consecutive year, India has abstained from the Palestine-sponsored resolution which supports a probe by the International Criminal Court against Israel for war crimes during its last Gaza offensive. At the same time, New Delhi voted in favour of four other resolutions criticising Israel, including one that calls for blacklisting firms operating in Israel’s illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian territory.

On the last day of the four-week long 31st session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, there were five resolutions related to Palestine up for vote. While three of them were adopted early on Thursday, intense negotiations went on late into the night to persuade the Palestinian delegation to soften its language on the draft resolution on accountability in Gaza and on compilation of a database of firms working in the Occupied West Bank.

Just as in 2015, Palestine brought a resolution aimed at bringing Israel before the ICC for violations of international humanitarian law during the 2014 Gaza war codenamed ‘Operation Protective Edge’ This year, the resolution was adopted with 31 countries in favour, 15 abstentions and none against.

Last year, a similar resolution had garnered 41 votes in favour and only five abstentions, including India. The United States had caste the lone vote against the resolution in 2015, but it is no longer part of the council this year.

Not the whole truth

A senior Indian official said that India’s abstention was again due to the reference the resolution made to the ICC in the “operational” portion of the resolution, as New Delhi is not a party to the Rome Statute – the charter of the criminal court.

Operational para 5 in resolution A/HRC/31/L.38 [PDF] calls upon “the parties concerned to cooperate fully with the preliminary examination of the International Criminal Court and with any subsequent investigation that may be opened”.

India had claimed last year that it had abstained on similarly worded resolutions against Syria and North Korea which referred to the ICC. However, this was a selective explanation, as India had voted in favour of other resolutions which referred Libya and Mali to the ICC, without any such qualification.

India’s abstention in 2015 – which followed a telephone call to Prime Minister Narendra Modi from his Israeli counterpart, Benjamin Netanyahu – had led to an outcry, with the Palestinian envoy to India expressing shock and the Israeli ambassador welcoming the non-vote.

Opposition MPs slammed the abstention as a reversal of India’s traditional position on Palestine. External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj was forced to make statement in parliament to explain that there while New Delhi acknowledged Israel as a friend, there was no change in support for the two-state policy.

Fear of business boycott

While Israel may be heartened by India’s abstention on the Gaza resolution this year too, it will not be overjoyed as New Delhi ended up voting in favour of a new Palestine-backed resolution that sets up a database of Israeli and international firms working in the illegal Israeli settlements.

As per the settlements resolution [PDF], the UN high commissioner for human rights would have to produce a database of “all business enterprises involved in activities” in the Israeli settlements, which will be updated annually.

It further called on the UN Secretary General to report on implementation of the resolution “with particular emphasis on the human rights and international law violations involved in the production of settlement goods and the relationship between trade in these goods and the maintenance and economic growth of settlements, at its thirty-fourth session”

India voted in favour of this resolution which was adopted with 32 ‘yes’ votes and 15 abstentions. There were no negative votes.

The resolution is considered especially dangerous by Israel because the compilation of businesses involved in the settlements will make it easier for the Boycott, Disinvestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian territory to target individual companies.

Earlier this year, Human Rights Watch published a report on how “settlement businesses contribute to Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.”

Sources said that there were efforts led by European Union which went on till midnight to tone down the language.

The Israeli paper Ha’aretz reported that US secretary of state John Kerry called up Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on Thursday afternoon in an attempt to persuade him to soften the draft before its adoption.

In his statement on the passage of the resolution, Israel’s UN envoy, Danny Danon said that the UNHRC had “witnessed another absurd performance”.

While most of the Organisation of Islamic Conference members voted in favour, the abstention category mostly included European countries.

The other three resolutions also passed on Thursday were on human rights in the occupied Syrian Golan, the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and on the human rights situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem. India voted with the Palestinians in all three.

  • Gus, USA

    What India is getting from Palestine or as a matter of fact . OIC has constantly threatened India, has Palestine supported us in OIC forums. We need to identify true friend and not play vote bank politics.

  • Gus, USA

    India needs to side with states like UAE and Israel who are with us in time of needs..we need to isolate those who side with Pakistan in OIC

  • markjsunz

    India is no friend but Israel has what they want so take there money and know they are not friends.

  • Aaron Rook

    BDS is the only way to move forward with Israel. The de-facto discrimination that even full citizens of arab descent have to bear is sickening. How could a people who have suffered so much learn so little?

    • si91

      BDS is bigoted and hypocritical. There is discrimination in just about every society where different races have to live together, but in Israel, the Arab minority have more rights, freedoms, and legal protections than they have in any other ME country, certainly more than any minorities in Arab states. Where’s the BDS campaign against Syria for slaughtering its own citizens, or Saudi Arabia for having public beheading for witchcraft as an acceptable punishment, or Iran for stoning homosexuals to death, or the Gaza Strip for the Hamas government’s hanging them from cranes?

  • Gus, USA

    BJP needs the numbers in Rajya Sabha to walk the talk.. when you vote for congress (Scammers ) and laloo (looters), you can not blame Modi but blame yourself. Shamelessly brought jungle raj in Bihar and joker in Delhi.

  • Gus, USA

    Agree ..Rajya Sabha is rejecting anything that lok sabha is sending ..congress is outright not allowing Govt to function impacting any prospects for India

  • si91

    What exactly is your problem here? On on hand, you say that it is politically bankrupt for India to support Palestine. I agree. But then why do you criticize Modi? The BJP has always supported better relations with Israel, and Modi is easily the most pro-Israel PM in Indian history. He’ll probably be the first to visit Israel. It was under the Congress that India shunned Israel and only opened up to them after 1991 when the Soviet Union fell and India needed a new arms supplier, but even then, under Rao and Singh, India kept its relationship with Israel under wraps. Under ABV and now Modi, the relationship is being strengthened and brought out into the open. If Modi isn’t sufficiently supportive of Israel, it is because he needs more than 2 years to fully reverse 60+ years of blinkered failure. That’s not his fault, that is the Congress’ fault. India should defend Israel from war crimes accusations and support Israeli settlements also.

  • si91

    How is supporting Palestine “right”?

  • Aj Singh

    Thats really shameful. Modi needs to answer to the people of India. Why this great blunder was committed ? By the way I think Modi has forgotten Kargil war when Israel had helped us so much. We are democracy , the majority of Indians have a wish to openly align with Israel. So Modi should respect this and align the country with Israel.

  • Gus, USA

    Agree with you but also to add that Muslims of India know that India is going for country’s interest. It is high time India should know who is it’s friend who is not. We need Palestine to support us on OIC as we give every year millions of dollars and we have so much Muslim populations as Indians, if not then we have to ask them questions where is their ethics. By the way pakistan so called Islamic country has been trying to normalize with Israel too.